More than a decade of freelance has taught me that even though you are on your own the majority of the time, you are still working with a team – be it with your client’s team or with another freelancer. Some projects require more than one pair of hands, which means partnering up with another freelancer can add value to your client’s project.

However, there may be times you realise too late that the freelancer you work with is not a good fit for your client’s project or with you. If only you knew before match-making!

Creatives@Work’s recent Hackathon on 25 May 2018 provided exactly what I needed in order to determine the working chemistry between various freelancers before a potential partnership could blossom.

Split into 3 different groups catering to 3 different clients, we were given the client’s brief and only 30 minutes to come up with the ideas to boost the client’s campaign.

Seated in a circle, each of us discussed the best ways to execute this. Within 10 minutes into the discussion, I could already tell whom I’d like to work with for my future projects, and whom I wanted to avoid. The ones who did not make it to my shortlist were either dominating the conversation without regards to the other freelancers’ ideas (including mine), lacked enthusiasm on the brief without bothering to provide solutions, or sticking to out-dated ideas without wanting to change.

You can imagine the disaster of our presentation afterwards.

Our spokesperson chose to fault the brief before everyone (talk about ruining the client’s first impression of you!) and used the last minute of that time to share execution methods based on the budget without pointing out our ideas or solutions. I was not surprised we did not win, and the feedback from the client was what I’d been screaming in my head all along during the presentation – that our ideas were not conveyed a single time!

Even though the Hackathon was thankfully a game-like casual discussion, it was a wake-up call beyond the introductory shaking of hands. I caught a glimpse of how each of us worked together. Could we really work together? Is the other freelancer more of an executor than a problem-solver? Can that freelancer be committed to the project until the end? Can that person work fast? And so on.

Once you become a freelancer, the stakes are higher with you than it is with an employee. Your reputation and others’ decision to hand you future projects are tied to what you do and your attitude towards problem-solving. Great chemistry is what determines great compatibility!

The downside of the Hackathon was that I did not entirely enjoy the process of working with those who did not fit my criteria of a good freelance partner. The upside? I got to narrow down my shortlist of good potential partners, and I know who’ll get the next project from me in the future.

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